What can be done to close the black homeownership gap?

With a 44.1% homeownership rate for the fourth quarter of 2020, African Americans lag far behind the 74.5% rate of non-Hispanic white households who own a home, according to census data. American.

In Utah, the gap for the black community remains large when it comes to overall homeownership rates, mirroring the rest of the nation. Comparatively, Hispanics enrolled at an estimated 49% rate, with Asians having a 63% homeownership rate.

However, during the coronavirus pandemic, African-American homebuyers joined a rush to Utahn in search of their share of the American dream. Even in this context, concerns remain about the overall effect that the economy slowed down by the pandemic will have in the long term. home ownership goals.

Trying to live the dream

For Salt Lake City resident Jasmine Walton, 26, owning a home wasn’t really on her radar until adulthood. She grew up in a family that rented rather than owned the places she lived when she arrived in Texas before moving to Utah about 15 years ago. As a result, she never really understood the benefits of home ownership.

“My parents were mostly renters and as we grew up we only lived in rentals, so I realized that homeownership is the fastest way to build wealth and grow. ‘have equity,’ she explained. “That’s why my fiance and I worked on buying a house. With rental prices rising, why don’t we just buy a house if we are spending so much on rent when we could have an entire house and it would be ours?

She said after nearly two years of deliberation, Walton and her fiancé, Miles Ellis, decided last summer to begin the mortgage qualification process and find a trusted real estate agent to begin the search for their mortgage. first house.

“With the interest rates coming down and everything that has happened with COVID, it has become more obvious that we need to get into our own home so that we can have more control over who we are and what goes on. Said Walton.

The couple also took inspiration from their fiance’s late grandfather, one of the first African Americans to be in the real estate business in Hive State, she said.

“He spoke to us a lot before he passed away about having his own home and the importance of home ownership, so that’s really what helped my fiancé,” she said.

She said black people and other minorities who are considering buying a home should seek out people who have gone through the process whom they trust and respect to give them insight into what it takes to own a home.

“It really helped me to be (comfortable) wanting to buy a house, especially being so young that we’re making such a big purchase,” Walton said. “It’s really important to have good people in your area who can help you through this process.”

Jasmine Walton is pictured in her rental apartment in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Walton and her fiance are trying to buy their first home.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Learn the basics

Real estate agent Chris Harper, who is also African American, helped the couple through the process of buying a home. He said one of the keys to bridging the homeownership gap is educating black people or other minorities so they realize they can actually do it.

“There is a fear, for some strange reason, of pulling the trigger to take advantage of the things that are right in front of us,” he said. “There are actually (programs) and grants for people to take advantage of that we just don’t know where you get officers who aren’t that well informed about this stuff and that really puts people off. “

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, potential borrowers with a credit score between 620 and 630 can qualify for home loans these days, and even as low as 590 to 600, a- he declared.

“If someone just took the time to show people that it can be done or what they need to do – just put it on paper and say you can do X, Y, and Z, then here is your opportunity,” Harper added. “Legitimately, it boils down to the square root of information.”

Overcome obstacles, access resources

Cyndi Roberts, head of Utah’s various segments at Wells Fargo Home Lending, said the information was key to alleviating the issues facing African Americans in Utah and elsewhere in the country.

“They face a big hurdle when it comes to buying a home. They feel like saving for a down payment is really a barrier and sometimes they just don’t understand credit and things like that, ”she said. “Becoming educated on homeownership, we found out of studies, is a big hurdle as well as finding an affordable home.”

During the pandemic, house prices in the West increased rapidly, making affordability a major issue for metropolitan areas in the region, she noted.

“We all hear about the affordability of homes, it’s really a challenge,” she says. “We find that this tends to be more of a barrier in the African American community.”

She noted that homeownership is a major factor contributing to the overall wealth gap between demographic groups.

“We find that the black community lags behind all other communities,” she said.

Roberts said increasing home ownership among blacks can be a big step forward in closing that gap. Its lenders across the country have developed programs and products that can help more minorities achieve their goal of owning a home, including free counseling and education workshops, as well as loan programs designed to help more. of African Americans to become home buyers.

Responsible home ownership

While home ownership may be relatively common in some segments of society, not all populations are familiar with the concept, explained Maria Garciaz, CEO of NeighbourWorks Salt Lake – a non-profit organization that helps create home ownership opportunities for low-income and minority communities.

“Our goal is really education and helping families understand how important home ownership is to build their heritage which will be a legacy for families, and the responsibility of having a mortgage”, she declared.

Those obligations include, among other things, planning for property taxes, she said, because families don’t always understand this part of the homeownership responsibility.

“They see their monthly mortgage go up every year, but they don’t always understand the taxes,” she says.

Garciaz said local groups like NeighbourWorks can serve as a channel to help black families and others understand the intricacies of homeownership and what it takes to achieve long-term success.

This can be accomplished “through funding, education, mentoring and connecting them with trusted resources in the community to help them through this process of buying a home beyond. what we can do to help them get there, ”she said.


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